May 05/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Bible Quotations
Keep away from believers who are living in idleness and not according to the tradition that they received from us

Second Letter to the Thessalonians 03/06-18: “We command you, beloved, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to keep away from believers who are living in idleness and not according to the tradition that they received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us; we were not idle when we were with you, and we did not eat anyone’s bread without paying for it; but with toil and labour we worked night and day, so that we might not burden any of you. This was not because we do not have that right, but in order to give you an example to imitate. For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: Anyone unwilling to work should not eat. For we hear that some of you are living in idleness, mere busybodies, not doing any work. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. Brothers and sisters, do not be weary in doing what is right. Take note of those who do not obey what we say in this letter; have nothing to do with them, so that they may be ashamed. Do not regard them as enemies, but warn them as believers. Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in all ways. The Lord be with all of you. I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. This is the mark in every letter of mine; it is the way I write. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be.."

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on May 04-05/18
Lebanese citizens vote Sunday. Here are 4 things to know about the first parliamentary elections since 2009/Jeffrey G. Karam/Washington Post/May 04/18
Final Days of a Crippled Agreement/Salman Al-dossary//Asharq Al Awsat/May 04/18
Iran Must Prove Israel is Lying/Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al Awsat/May 04/18
Trump's Three Conditions for Fixing the Iran Deal Are Now Imperative/Malcolm Lowe/Gatestone Institute/May 04/18
Iran, Macromel and the Purloined Letter/Amir Taheri/Asharq Al Awsat/May 04/18
Iran will reluctantly accept Trump’s conditions/Mohammed Al Shaikh/Al Arabiya/May 04/18
The impossibility of changing Iran’s policy in the region/Randa Takieddine/Al Arabiya/May 04/18
The impossibility of changing Iran’s policy in the region/Randa Takieddine/Al Arabiya/May 04/18

Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on May 04-05/18
As Lebanon prepares to vote, here’s a look at its power-sharing system
Lebanon will seek refugee solution without UN: Aoun
Lebanon Enters Electoral Silence, 20,000 Troops to Ensure Safety of Polls
Lebanese citizens vote Sunday. Here are 4 things to know about the first parliamentary elections since 2009.
Lebanese Government’s 15-Month Tenure: Political Stability, Economic Failure
Aoun to EU Delegation: Lebanon Will Solve Refugees Crisis 'Regardless of EU, U.N. Opinion'
Ruling Parties to Keep Their Clout as Lebanon Votes
Khalil Slams Bassil as 'Professional Thief, Counterfeiter'
'Stop the Political Assassination Attempts', Bassil Tells Geagea
Hariri Tours Beirut, Defends 'Moderation' on Eve of 'Crucial' Vote
Taimur Jumblat: Walid Jumblat's Will Shall Not be Defeated
Lebanon's Long-Awaited Parliamentary Vote in Numbers
Lebanon's Key Previous Parliamentary Elections
EU Election Monitors Fan Out ahead of Sunday Vote in Lebanon
Lebanon's New Electoral Law: What You Need to Know
First Lebanese Election in 9 Years Sidesteps Divisive Issues
Lebanon since Independence

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on May 04-05/18
Trump says date, place set for North Korea meeting
Syria Rebels Hand over Arms in New Deal with Regime
Morocco Makes Sovereign Decision on Severing Ties with Iran
Israel Demands Security Council to Condemn Abbas’ Remarks
Iraq Debates over Granting Amnesty for Saddam-era Defense Minister
Riyadh Issues Prison Sentences against ISIS Supporters
No Nobel Literature Prize in 2018 after Sexual Assault Scandal
Unprecedented Anger in Gaza Due to Reduced Salaries
Latest Lebanese Related News published on May 04-05/18
As Lebanon prepares to vote, here’s a look at its power-sharing system
Reuters, Beirut/Friday, 4 May 2018/Candidates are vying for 128 seats that are divided among 11 religious groups according to a strict sectarian power-sharing system. (Reuters)
Lebanon holds its first parliamentary election in nine years on Sunday, with candidates vying for 128 seats that are divided among 11 religious groups according to a strict sectarian power-sharing system. Here are the main players:
Future movement
Future is led by Saad al-Hariri, Lebanon’s leading Sunni and prime minister since 2016. Hariri took on his political role after his father Rafik al-Hariri was assassinated in 2005.
The early years of his political career were defined by confrontation with the heavily armed Shiite group Hezbollah. A UN-backed court later charged five Hezbollah members over the Hariri killing. The group denies any role.
Hariri still opposes the Iran-backed Hezbollah but these days says its arsenal is an issue that is bigger than Lebanon and should be solved through regional dialogue. His focus is now on reviving and reforming the moribund economy.
He enjoys backing from the West, notably France which intervened last November when it is widely acknowledged that Saudi Arabia - once a close ally of the Hariri family - forced him to resign, though Riyadh and Hariri publicly deny it.
Hezbollah is the most powerful group in Lebanon. It was founded in 1982 by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and is deemed a terrorist group by the United States. It has grown even more powerful since 2012 as a key player in the Syrian war, fighting in support of President Bashar al-Assad.
Hezbollah entered parliament for the first time in the 1990s. It also has ministers in government.
Free Patriotic Movement
The FPM was established by Maronite Christian politician Michel Aoun, a former army commander who led one of two rival governments in the final years of the 1975-90 civil war.
Aoun became president in 2016 as part of the political deal that made Hariri prime minister. The FPM is led by Aoun’s son-in-law, Gebran Bassil and is allied to Hezbollah.
Amal movement
The Shiite Amal Movement was a civil war adversary of Hezbollah but has been closely aligned with the group since the conflict ended. It is led by Nabih Berri, who has been speaker of parliament since 1992. Amal also has close ties to Assad.
Supporters of the Shi'ite Amal movement wave flags during a rally to mark the 33rd anniversary of the disappearance of Imam Musa al-Sadr, who was the founder and leader of the Amal movement in Lebanon, in Baalbeck, in the Bekaa valley August 31, 2011. (Reuters)
Progressive Socialist Party
The PSP is led by Walid Jumblatt, the strongest figure in the Lebanese Druze minority. Jumblatt inherited his role from his assassinated father, Kamal, and was a prominent civil war leader. Jumblatt is in the process of handing authority to his son, Taymour, who is running in his place in the election.
Lebanese Forces
The LF led by Maronite Christian politician Samir Geagea emerged from a powerful civil war militia by the same name.
Geagea led the LF through the final years of the war after the 1982 assassination of Bashir Gemayel, its founder. Geagea, the only Lebanese militia leader to serve jail time over civil war violence, is the most significant Christian opponent of Hezbollah.
The Kateab, also known as the Phalange Party, is led by Maronite Christian politician Sami Gemayel, who took over the leadership from his father, former President Amin Gemayel.
Sami Gemayel moved to the fore after the assassination of his brother, Pierre, in 2006 during a wave of killings targeting opponents of Syrian influence in Lebanon.
Marada movement
Marada is led by Maronite Christian politician Suleiman Franjieh, a close Hezbollah ally and a friend of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Hariri initially backed Franjieh for the presidency in 2016 but the deal did not gain wider backing. Instead, Hariri struck the deal that made Aoun head of state.

Lebanon will seek refugee solution without UN: Aoun

The Daily Star/May. 04, 2018/BEIRUT: Lebanon will attempt to find a solution to the Syrian refugee crisis independently, regardless of the opinion of the United Nations, President Michel Aoun said Friday. Speaking to a European Union delegation currently in Lebanon to observe the imminent elections, Aoun said that the country’s solutions would not take into account the preferences of either the U.N. or the EU, “because [the refugee question] is an existential issue and one that concerns the security, stability independence and sovereignty of Lebanon.”
Earlier this week, Aoun requested that the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Saudi Arabia help to secure the return of Syrian refugees to their country, “to stop their [sufferings] on the one hand, and, on the other, to end the repercussions of this displacement on Lebanon socially, economically, educationally and in terms of security,” according to a statement released by the presidency after Aoun met with diplomats from the three countries. Lebanon has been at odds with the international community over what it claims are attempts to resettle refugees on Lebanese soil, in an ongoing disagreement that has escalated in recent weeks. The United Nations’ refugee agency and other organizations have rejected these claims, but continue to insist that Syria is not yet safe enough to allow the return of refugees.

Lebanon Enters Electoral Silence, 20,000 Troops to Ensure Safety of Polls
Beirut - Paula Astih/Asharq Al Awsat/Friday, 04 May/18 /Political campaigns in Lebanon are scheduled to end at midnight Friday, 48 hours ahead of the parliamentary polls scheduled for Sunday in all governorates, as the country’s security apparatuses mobilize to ensure the safety of elections.
The Lebanese Army leadership attaches great importance to preserving security and stability on Election Day. “The Army Command confirms its readiness to prohibit any party from taking advantage of the critical circumstances that the country is facing in an attempt to undermine security,” Lebanon’s National News Agency (NNA) said on Thursday. Interior Minister Nohad al-Mashnouq said that all security apparatuses were fully mobilized, adding that between 20,000 and 30,000 military personnel will be deployed on Sunday across all areas. Five connected operation rooms will be coordinating with the Defense Ministry to secure the electoral process. On Sunday, around 3,648,717 registered voters will be eligible to choose from among more than 900 candidates competing for 128 parliamentary seats. Voters will cast their ballots in 6,793 polling stations and 1,880 polling centers, spread across all governorates.
A number of local and international observers will monitor the elections. Researcher at Information International Mohammed Shamseddine told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Cabinet allocated $50 million for parliamentary elections. The last elections held in 2009 had cost the government only $7 million.
The rise in expenditures in the 2018 polls is mainly due to a larger number of polling stations and the voting of Lebanese expatriates in 39 countries. The government also needed an additional budget for its electoral campaign to explain the new electoral law, which is based on a proportional representation system, contrary to the 2009 elections, which were held based on a majority system. On Thursday, candidates running on 77 lists increased their media appearances before the period of silence at midnight Friday. Head of the Electoral Supervisory Committee Judge Nadim Abdul Malak reminded parliamentary hopefuls and media outlets to observe the period of pre-election silence in line with the law, NNA said.

Lebanese citizens vote Sunday. Here are 4 things to know about the first parliamentary elections since 2009.
Jeffrey G. Karam/Washington Post/May 04/18
A poster of the Koullouna Watani list, left top, and other posters for parliamentary elections that include a portrait of assassinated Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri, right, are displayed in Beirut, on Tuesday. (Hassan Ammar/AP)
On Sunday, tens of thousands of Lebanese citizens will head to the polls to elect a new 128-member parliament. Against a background of rampant corruption, an economy on the verge of collapsing and rising regional tension, here are four key things to know about the upcoming elections in Lebanon.
1. The first elections since 2009 will test changing alliances
The last time Lebanese citizens elected a new parliament was in 2009. Citing concerns over the spillover effects from neighboring Syria’s ongoing civil war, members of parliament postponed the scheduled elections in 2013, 2014 and 2017. While the political elite used the events in Syria to publicly justify postponing elections, the true motive was the changing balance of power among the many local parties.
After the assassination of Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri in 2005, two main political blocs emerged. Hezbollah spearheaded the March 8 alliance, while a coalition formed around the March 14 alliance campaigned around containing Hezbollah’s arsenal and limiting its influence. These alliances remained intact until the elections in 2009. Although Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s March 14 alliance won a plurality of seats, it failed to deliver on its promise to check Hezbollah’s growing power and even included two Hezbollah ministers in its government.
In the following months, these two blocs began to disintegrate. In addition to clashes between the Lebanese Armed Forces and militant groups along the Syrian border, the country was crippled by political deadlock over filling the post of the president. After two and a half years of bickering, former adversaries agreed to nominate Michel Aoun in October 2016.
The rapprochement between Aoun and Hariri signaled the end of the March 8 and March 14 alliances and allowed parliamentarians to finally agree on a new draft election law.
2. How a new electoral law may change Lebanon’s politics
In June 2017, Lebanese parliamentarians passed a new electoral law. In contrast to the previous winner-takes-all system, the new law uses a more proportional representation system. The new law also introduced the “preferential vote,” in which voters are entitled to cast one preferential vote for a candidate on their chosen list. This change will probably allow for surprises in the upcoming elections. Previously, members of different lists ran as a collective, so the preferential vote increases competition among candidates on the same list. Although established political parties will ask their supporters to cast the preferential vote in line with their blocs, the preferential vote could highlight the friction in districts where different political parties compromised to form single list.
For the first time in Lebanon’s history, expatriates living around the globe were able to cast their ballots for candidates in their districts in early voting. About 82,970 registered expatriate voters were expected to cast their ballot between April 27 and April 30.
Unlike previous elections, the new law also calls for the Ministry of Interior to prepare preprinted ballots, including the names, religious sect and photo of candidates. In the past, voters would enter polling stations with lists given by their political parties or prepared at home and could mix and match candidates from different lists or even choose one candidate. But in this round, voters must instead cast their ballot for an entire list. Preprinted ballots are likely to increase voter choice and flexibility while reducing vote-buying, cheating and electoral bribes.
3. How civil society and women are challenging the political elite
In recent years, Lebanon’s civil society has begun more actively supporting and often substituting for the weak government. Most civil society organizations focus on providing social services and reforming the sectarian-based political system.
his is the first electoral law crafted with the collaboration of parliamentarians and civil society activists. For most of Lebanon’s history, previous electoral laws were sponsored by regional powers – such as Egypt, Iran, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Syria – or superpowers, especially the United States. While regional powers will still seek to influence their proxies and clients in the upcoming elections, such influence will be comparatively limited.
Although about 379 candidates dropped because they failed to get a spot on established lists, for the first time in Lebanon’s electoral history, some 597 candidates, including independent candidates, are running for 128 seats. An unprecedented 86 women are running for office. In the 2009 elections, only 12 women ran for office.
Unlike Lebanon’s political elite, the diverse civil society organizations have a vested interest in altering the status quo and have been gearing up to challenge elites in new ways. One grass-roots movement, LiBaladi (For My Country), has formed an alliance with other independent candidates and volunteer-based campaigns known as Koullouna Watani (We Are All the Nation). Some civil society organizations have even formed alliances with established political parties.
4. Maintaining the status quo can make for strange bedfellows
Borrowing loosely from international relations scholarship, Lebanese political actors form and reform alliances to balance power, threats and interests. Specifically, Lebanon’s political elite form cross-sectarian alliances to maintain the balance of power and undercut any electoral and political competition. The elite, representing Lebanon’s different religious groups, also form intra-sectarian alliances to contain any threatening and challenging contenders within their respective religious communities.
Lebanon’s political elite, such as Aoun, Speaker of the Parliament Nabih Berri, Prime Minister Hariri and political party leaders are willing to temporarily forgo their differences and form alliances with political rivals to maintain the status quo. The spectrum of alliances varies by region. In Beirut, the predominantly Christian FPM is allying with Hariri’s overwhelmingly Sunni Future Movement. However, in the diverse Chouf-Aley district, the FPM has formed an electoral list with the mostly Druse Lebanese Democratic Party, against the coalition between the Future Movement and Walid Jumblatt’s overwhelmingly Druse Progressive Socialist Party.
While the upcoming elections probably will not significantly alter Lebanon’s dysfunctional state of governance, the empowerment of civil society and female candidates could lead to the election of a small number of independent deputies and signal changes further on the horizon.
**Jeffrey G. Karam is a postdoctoral research fellow in the International Security Program at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. In fall 2018, he will be an assistant professor of political science at the Lebanese American University. You can follow him on Twitter @JGKaram.

Lebanese Government’s 15-Month Tenure: Political Stability, Economic Failure
Beirut - Caroline Akoum/Asharq Al Awsat/Friday, 04 May/18 /The last session of the government led by Prime Minister Saad Hariri will take place next week as its mandate will expire on May 20, more than a year after its formation.
Its 15-month tenure was marked by many internal and external events amid diverging views on the cabinet’s performance. Its members emphasize that they have made great achievements, while others see it as nothing more than a failure or a distorted achievement at best. However, it cannot be denied that Hariri’s government, which came as a result of a political settlement and the election of President Michel Aoun, contributed to a large extent to security stability, and brought down the polarization caused by the March 14 and March 8 coalitions. Minister of Economy and Trade Raed Khoury said that the government had made many achievements and launched the process of reform and set the stage for projects that the next government should implement, while the director of the Middle East Institute for Strategic Affairs, Sami Nader, considered the government’s performance as incomplete. In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, Khoury said that the government has held 70 sessions, which is evidence of its “seriousness”, and detailed what he described as achievements, which included: “The adoption of the Budget Law for 2017 and 2018 for the first time since 2005; the adoption of the parliamentary electoral law, at a time when no previous government dared to take this step, and the implementation of diplomatic and judicial appointments”, in addition to setting the economic plan that should be completed by the next government, and the battle to expel terrorist organizations from the outskirts of the northeastern border town of Arsal last August. According to Khoury, consensus between Aoun and Hariri had contributed greatly to facilitating the government’s functions and activating state institutions. Nader, for his part, did not deny that the election of the president and the formation of the government contributed to guarantying security and political stability to a certain extent, but stressed the cabinet’s failure in mainly implementing foreign and economic policies. In comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, Nader described the government’s management of the economy as a “terrible failure”. “What they consider as achievements were only incomplete and distorted projects plagued by corruption. Even the ministers themselves were exchanging accusations of corruption,” he stated. In foreign policy, Nader said he believed that the main failure was breaching the dissociation policy, which led to the resignation of Hariri, before being contained through a re-commitment to this policy, pushing Hariri to revoke his decision.

Aoun to EU Delegation: Lebanon Will Solve Refugees Crisis 'Regardless of EU, U.N. Opinion'
Naharnet/May 04/18/President Michel Aoun assured on Friday that Lebanon will find a solution for the Syrian refugees crisis “regardless of the EU and U.N.'s opinions because it is an existential threat,” the Presidency media office quoted Aoun. The President’s remarks came during a meeting with a EU ministerial delegation and head of the European Union Election Observation Mission. “We will try to find a solution for Syrian refugees crisis regardless of the EU and U.N.'s opinion because it is an existential threat related to Lebanon’s stability, independence and sovereignty,” he said. “We expect the European union to help us return the Syrian refugees, monitor this return and make sure it is safe and stable, especially that the Syrian government does not refuse their return to safe towns and villages,” added Aoun. Late in April, the President said he rejects a U.N.-EU joint statement issued during the “Brussels Conference on Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region”, noting that it contained a call for a “veiled naturalization” of Syrian refugees in Lebanon. The U.N., the EU and major world powers have recently warned that “present conditions” in Syria are “not conducive for voluntary repatriation in safety and dignity.” Their statement's were not welcomed in Lebanon, as Lebanese officials, mainly Speaker Nabih Berri and Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil rejecting the statement. Almost one million Syrians are registered as refugees in Lebanon, though many expect the real number is much higher.
Syria's war has killed more than 350,000 people and displaced millions since starting in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests. On Lebanon’s Upcoming elections, Aoun explained to the delegation that each Lebanese voter shall vote for one of the competing lists and shall be entitled to cast one preferential vote for a candidate of the same chosen list, with the country divided into 15 electoral constituencies. Adding, that Lebanese expats in Arab and foreign countries have been able to cast their votes from abroad, a first for Lebanon.

Ruling Parties to Keep Their Clout as Lebanon Votes
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 04/18/Lebanon elects its parliament for the first time in nine years Sunday, with its ruling parties seeking to preserve a fragile power-sharing arrangement despite regional tensions. The Iran-backed Hezbollah movement and its allies could stand to dominate parliament and reinforce their clout in Lebanon, a small country clamped between war-torn Syria and Israel. A new voting system has raised some hope for an unprecedented civil society list to make a small dent in the decades-old monopoly of political dynasties but disillusionment is rife in the electorate.
The triumvirate heading the state is unlikely to change, with parliament speaker Nabih Berri almost certain to keep the post he has held since 1992 and Prime Minister Saad Hariri also set to stay put. President Michel Aoun's position is not up for renewal on May 6 but his party is a key player in a dizzying game of alliances which leads allies in one district to be enemies in another. Hezbollah, whose militia outguns the army and is listed by the United States as a terrorist organisation, is allied both to Berri and Aoun and is expected to chip at the camp led by Hariri's Sunni-dominated movement. "Hezbollah and its allies will be the first beneficiaries" of the new electoral law, said pollster Kamal Feghali. A clear win for Hezbollah, which is active in several conflicts in the region, could further fray the nerves of Israel and Washington. Hezbollah is funded and armed by Shiite Iran while Hariri has historically been supported by Sunni regional kingpin Saudi Arabia. But both have appeared ready to continue sharing power and neutralise growing tension between their rival sponsors.
Same alliance -"These three forces will directly or indirectly be at the helm" after the vote, said Sami Atallah, director of the Lebanese Center for Policy Studies.
A fifth of this year's 3.7 million-strong electorate was too young to vote in the last legislative polls in 2009.
But the widespread perception that self-serving, hereditary and corrupt traditional parties have long sewn up a deal to preserve the status quo could keep many voters away on Sunday. "What is there to be interested in? It's the same names, the same faces, the same joke," said Joumana, a 51-year-old secretary at a clinic in Beirut. "My son and my daughter are doing their university studies in Europe. That is what's giving them a future, not the Lebanese state." Members of Lebanon's vast diaspora voted abroad for the first time this year, but those who were able to register in time were in small enough numbers that they were not expected to have a major impact on the results. A music video released this week by two young Lebanese sisters, Michelle and Noel Keserwany, has been doing the rounds on the internet. "We've been fooled by the ruling tricksters," go the lyrics of the satirical song entitled "Again and again", which ridicules Lebanon's political dynasties and urges people to vote them out. The political force that embodies change is a list called "Kulluna Watani" which federates civil society groups, including a movement born of protests over a waste management crisis that erupted in 2015.
In private, its leaders and strategists say snatching even one seat in parliament would be an achievement.
- 'Very corrupt' -Among the list's candidates with the best chances is Paula Yacoubian, a prominent TV journalist who became a key figure in the election campaign and is one of a record 86 women to run for a seat. "We have a very corrupt cast and there is a movement of brave people trying to tell them: 'We are not happy'," she told AFP. The challenge of rousing lethargic voters is huge, however. The country has gone through institutional crises that have left it without a president for two years and without a budget for 12 -- but many Lebanese argue you could hardly tell the difference. The new electoral law adopted last year provides for some proportionality but sectarian quotas in each district and astute gerrymandering have diluted its impact. Once tipped as a likely casualty of this election, Hariri now looks set to stay in the seat his billionaire father Rafiq, assassinated in 2005, had before him.
A bizarre sequence that saw him essentially detained in Riyadh and forced to announce his resignation on television last year eventually earned him cross-sectarian support at home and renewed solicitude from key partners France and the United States.
"There may be differences of opinion now and sectarian arguments but it's all vote-fishing tactics. After May 6, we'll see these main forces return to rule the country together," Sami Atallah said.

Khalil Slams Bassil as 'Professional Thief, Counterfeiter'
Naharnet/May 04/18/Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil on Friday lashed out at Free Patriotic Movement chief and Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil, calling him a “professional thief.” “I wish I heard the response of the real energy minister who is tasked with the foreign affairs portfolio when I rightfully described him during a cabinet session as a professional thief and professional counterfeiter,” Khalil tweeted, referring to the row over the Deir Amar power plant. “He did not answer back then and he is mistaken if he thinks that the repetition of his lie will change people's mind,” Khalil added. Bassil was swift to dismiss Khalil's attack when asked about it during a live TV interview, saying his silence during the session was the best answer. “When someone like Minister Ali Hassan Khalil accuses me of being a thief, this proves my innocence, especially after the latest cabinet resolution,” Bassil added.

'Stop the Political Assassination Attempts', Bassil Tells Geagea
Naharnet/May 04/18/Free Patriotic Movement chief and Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil on Friday accused Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea of attempting to “assassinate” him politically. “O Samir, stop hurling the bullets of political assassination at us... Stand by your brother and help him in order to execute projects together rather than impede each other's projects,” Bassil said at an electoral rally in his hometown Batroun on the eve of the electoral silence period. “You should stand by your brother rather than standing idly by and not doing anything in the refugee file, which is among the responsibilities of the Social Affairs Ministry. I was left alone as I was receiving blows from the international community,” Bassil added, addressing Geagea. “You say that your ministers have not been involved in corruption, but this is because they do not do anything,” the FPM chief went on to say. He added: “We had the courage to put our achievements in a book, so let us see your achievements. You talk about corruption while you are taking part in electoral corruption. Your stance over the Orthodox Gathering electoral law and the sacking of the prime minister was subordination, not sovereignty.” Bassil also accused Batroun MP Butros Harb of “not doing anything” despite being a lawmaker for “46 years.”As for the Syrian refugee crisis, he added: “The same as we restored the citizenship of Lebanese descendants, we will return the Syrian refugees to their country.”

Hariri Tours Beirut, Defends 'Moderation' on Eve of 'Crucial' Vote
Naharnet/May 04/18/Prime Minister and al-Mustaqbal Movement leader Saad Hariri on Friday visited Dar al-Fatwa, the seat of Lebanon's highest Sunni Muslim religious authority, as he toured several Beirut neighborhoods two days ahead of the May 6 parliamentary elections. Hariri was received at Dar al-Fatwa by Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Latif Daryan, who was meeting with a group of scholars and clerics. Daryan welcomed Hariri and said: "By coming here today, you reminded me of the great martyr of Lebanon, PM Rafik Hariri, who used to come to Dar al-Fatwa in the essential periods of the history of Lebanon.”“The good relationship between Dar al-Fatwa and the Premiership must remain strong and solid, because in the end the Mufti of the Republic and the Prime Minister protect the sect and the nation,” the Mufti added. “We are the ones who preserve coexistence, security and stability. You and us have carried the banner of moderation. Yes we are moderates, we are not terrorists,” Daryan added.
“I tell you: do not be afraid and do not worry, I am with you and the scholars of Lebanon are with you... We hope that there will be a large participation in the elections,” the Mufti went on to say.
Hariri for his part described his visit to Dar al-Fatwa as “one of the most important visits.”“Dar al-Fatwa is the shield of all Muslims in this country, and whenever it is fine, Muslims in Lebanon are fine. Our decision is free and for the sake of moderation and the country. This is what we fight for and we will always be with Dar al-Fatwa," the premier added. He stated: "All I care about is the country, and when extremism was high in Lebanon, I was doing the opposite because I believe that Islam is the religion of moderation, peace and love. Moderation is not weakness, but rather strength, and moderation is what brings security, stability, economy, employment, happiness and love among people.”Referring to the regional situation, Hariri said: “The area around us is burning, but that does not mean that we are going to burn. We have to put out the fire.”Hariri later made several stops in the Beirut neighborhoods of Aisha Bakkar, Zaroub al-Alia, Tallet al-Khayyat, Malla and Tariq al-Jedideh, where he was greeted by huge crowds of supporters. Earlier, Hariri attended a lunch banquet held by Saad El Din Hamidi Sakr on the Beirut Arab University street, in the presence of a crowd of Beiruti figures. After a welcoming speech from Sakr, Hariri said: “The elections that will take place next Sunday are crucial for the country, Beirut, its decision and identity, because the vote will determine the shape of parliament for the next four years.” “If we do not have a large bloc, especially from Beirut in the midst of the upcoming changes and challenges, we will not have an impact and Beirut's decision will go to other known parties,” Hariri warned. “We have a comprehensive and clear program and project for economy, security, openness and dialogue. We are fighting this battle with you to complete this project. Therefore everyone has to vote to prevent anyone from blocking this project,” the premier added.

Taimur Jumblat: Walid Jumblat's Will Shall Not be Defeated
Naharnet/May 04/18/Taimur Jumblat, the son and heir apparent of Druze leader MP Walid Jumblat, announced Friday that the Chouf-Aley 'Reconciliation List' will work on “building the state of law and institutions.”“We stand before the teacher Kamal Jumblat who founded our path and we salute all the martyrs who offered their blood to protect this path,” Jumblat said at an electoral rally in Baakline on the eve of the electoral silence period. He vowed that the Reconciliation List, a coalition led by the Progressive Socialist Party and the Lebanese Forces, will “continue the journey and seek to make Mount Lebanon and the country stronger.” And urging a heavy turnout in the May 6 elections, the young candidate stressed that “Kamal Jumblat's strength and Walid Jumblat's will cannot be defeated.”

Lebanon's Long-Awaited Parliamentary Vote in Numbers
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 04/18/After a series of political crises, Lebanon is gearing up for its first parliamentary polls in almost a decade on May 6.
Under a new electoral law, voters will follow a proportional system and Lebanese can vote abroad for the first time. Here are some numbers.
- 9: years since Lebanon's last legislative elections.
- 50 percent: voter turnout in 2009 elections.
- 128: lawmakers elected in 2009, including 4 women.
- 3: number of times they extended their own mandate.
- 3.7 million: Lebanese eligible to vote in the 2018 parliamentary elections.
- 82,900: expatriates registered to vote abroad in 2018.
- 15: voting districts in Lebanon after new electoral law.
- 597: candidates running on 77 closed lists.
- 86: record number of women candidates in 2018.
- 21: minimum age to be eligible to vote.
- 25: minimum age to become a candidate.
- 26: age of the youngest parliamentary candidate, Gulay al-Assaad, from north Lebanon's Akkar region.
- $100,000 plus $3 per voter: limit on campaign spending in each candidate's electoral district.
- $6,000: cost per minute of airtime for candidates, charged by some television channels.
- $1.5 million: reported cost of a media campaign package for a candidate on some Lebanese channels.

Lebanon's Key Previous Parliamentary Elections
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 04/18/
Lebanon holds parliamentary elections on Sunday, its 14th legislative vote since gaining independence in 1943. Here is a summary of some of the country's key polls in the past.
- 1947: First independent vote -
Lebanon formally gained independence from France on November 22, 1943. It had held parliamentary elections earlier that year, and the members serve out their four-year term. In 1947, recently-independent Lebanon hosts its vote and 55 parliamentarians are elected. Under a religious power-sharing agreement, the body is governed by a ratio of six Christians to every five Muslims.
The body brings incumbent prime minister Riad al-Solh back to power. Parliament would later be expanded to 99 members.
1992: a peaceful poll .The elections of 1992 are the first after Lebanon's civil war, during which no elections were held. The last previous vote had been in 1972.
They are also the first time voters elect 128 parliamentarians, after the agreement that ended the war also expanded the body and divided it evenly between Muslims and Christians. The 1992 vote sees many new parties come to power, including Hizbullah and the AMAL Movement, the country's two Shiite powerhouses.
2005: free of Syrian interference
The 2005 elections are the first to be held after Syria's withdrawal from Lebanon.
The last Syrian troops had left Lebanon on April 26, after a 29-year deployment that granted Damascus the last word in Lebanon's three prior votes (1992, 1996, 2000). The polls are held from May 29 to June 19 in four stages, being held successively in the country's main regions.
The new parliament was dominated by two main blocs.
The absolute majority was held by the anti-Syrian March 14 bloc, which was led by Saad Hariri -- son of assassinated former prime minister Rafik -- and included Druze chief Walid Jumblat and key Christian parties.
The second force in parliament was the March 8 coalition formed by the pro-Syrian AMAL and Hizbullah parties. Christian general Michel Aoun, who had returned to the country after 15 years in exile in France, flipped his anti-Syrian stance and allied with March 8.
- 2009: Western-backed bloc boosted -
On June 7, 2009 Hizbullah and its allies go head to head with the anti-Syrian majority.
The elections, which followed four years of instability, take place for the first time in a single day in the presence of more than 200 foreign observers. Some 50,000 soldiers and police officers were deployed across the country.
Since the last elections, the country had suffered a spate of political assassinations, the brutal 2006 war between Israel and Hizbullah, fighting in a Palestinian refugee camp between the army and Islamists in 2007, an acute political crisis and confessional clashes in 2008 that had left around 100 dead.
The March 14 coalition wins 71 out of the 128 seats against 57 for the Hizbullah camp, and Hariri is named prime minister.
The parliament later extends its term three times, pointing to the risk of a spillover into Lebanon of the war in Syria and the need to amend the electoral law.
In October 2016 Michel Aoun becomes president, having gained the support of Hizbullah, after a 29-month institutional vacuum. Hariri is renamed prime minister.
In June 2017 the rival political parties agree on a new electoral law after months of laborious negotiations.

EU Election Monitors Fan Out ahead of Sunday Vote in Lebanon
Associated Press/Naharnet/May 04/18/European Union election monitors are deploying around Lebanon, ahead of the country's first parliamentary elections in nearly a decade. Over a hundred observers from European Union countries, as well as Norway and Sweden, will be working during the elections, according to the EU Election Observation Mission in Lebanon. The observers were invited by the Lebanese government to monitor and assess the voting scheduled for Sunday. Elena Valenciano, Lebanon chief observer for the mission, said political parties in Lebanon are "really committed to have good elections." More than 500 candidates are competing in 15 electoral districts for 128 seats. They include a record number of women and civil society activists hoping to challenge established political parties and politicians.

Lebanon's New Electoral Law: What You Need to Know
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 04/18/Lebanon is set to hold its first parliamentary vote in nearly a decade on May 6, after a drawn-out political stalemate finally produced a new electoral law in 2017.
The new system maintains the sectarian seat allocation in the 128-member parliament, but swaps out the decades-old plurality system for a proportional list-based one. Below are the most prominent elements of the law.
The new law reduces the number of voting districts from 26 to 15.
The smallest district in the south is represented by five parliament seats, and the largest, the hilly region of Chouf-Aley, has been allocated 13 seats. In each district, the seats are distributed among the various religious sects present in that area. For example, the seven seats allotted for the eastern district of Zahleh in the Bekaa valley include two seats for Catholics and one seat each for a Maronite Christian, Shiite Muslim, Sunni Muslim, Orthodox Christian, and Armenian Orthodox Christian.
All voters, regardless of sect, can vote for all seats in their district. In the past, they could individually choose which candidate they want to elect for each seat, mixing and matching from various parties as they wished.
Under the new law, they must choose from among wholesale lists presented on pre-printed ballots.The formation of those lists has been a key dimension of the new process. In some districts, political foes have reached across the aisle to form mutually beneficial alliances, while opposing each other in other districts. It has also forced non-traditional candidates who would have run as independents to join forces within lists, as they can no longer run individually. There are a total of 77 lists running across Lebanon. Once voters choose a list, they can then award a "preferential vote" to one member of that list -- another new element of the reformed law allowing voters to grant an extra boost to a candidate they particularly like.
In previous elections, votes had only been counted by hand. Under the new law, a manual tally will take place at polling stations, but ballots will then be counted a second time, electronically. The reformed system also introduces an electoral threshold, calculated by dividing the number of valid votes by the number of seats in each district. If an electoral list does not cross the threshold, it is disqualified.
In a first phase, the qualifying lists are ranked based on how many votes they each received, and the seats are distributed among the lists accordingly.
Next, to determine which candidate from each list wins each religiously allocated seat, the preferential votes are counted.
And more!
For the first time, Lebanese expatriates were allowed to vote from abroad. Around 82,000 of those who had registered cast their ballots this week, ahead of the main election day in Lebanon. The new law has also created Lebanon's first electoral oversight commission. The body is responsible for making sure the campaigns leading up to the elections, and the vote itself, run smoothly and fairly.
It included one representative of a civil society group, but she resigned last week in protest at "the lack of provision of necessary resources to allow the commission to carry out its tasks... and limiting its prerogatives."

First Lebanese Election in 9 Years Sidesteps Divisive Issues
Associated Press/Naharnet/May 04/18/
Few countries are as vulnerable to the Middle East's mayhem as Lebanon, which has taken in a million refugees from the catastrophic war in neighboring Syria, seen the Iran-backed Hizbullah party embroiled in that war and watched Saudi Arabia try to oust its prime minister.
Yet campaigning for Sunday's parliamentary election, the first in nine years, has timidly sidestepped the big issues, leaving many Lebanese expecting more of the same. It's especially galling for Lebanese concerned a still-dominant Hizbullah could drag the country into a looming Iranian-Israeli regional confrontation.
The vote is expected to be a test for the country's Sunni prime minister, Saad Hariri, and his Shiite opponent, Hizbullah, which is looking to tighten its grip and expand its presence in the 128-seat parliament — likely at Hariri's expense.
Interior Minister Nouhad Mashnouq, a member of Hariri's inner circle, said the election is not "a Sunni-Shiite conflict but rather a conflict between a group that believes in a state and a nation, and another that has regional and Iranian leanings."
The sides, however, can hardly govern effectively without each other and are expected to recreate the unity government that currently exists, which incorporates members of Hizbullah.
Most of the campaigning by more than 500 candidates has revolved around platforms of stability and economic growth, with many of Lebanon's civil war-era political titans set to return, including Lebanon's Shiite parliament speaker, Nabih Berri, a Hizbullah ally who has held the post for more than 25 years and who is virtually uncontested. Some warlords are passing on their seats to their sons, including Druze leader Walid Jumblat.
"Divisive issues such as Hizbullah's weapons and the controversy over its participation in regional conflicts are almost entirely absent from the electoral campaigns, indicating implicit acceptance of the party's domestic hegemony," wrote analyst Joseph Bahout in an article for the Carnegie Middle East Center.
A new election law agreed on last year has opened cracks through which rivals within the Shiite community could potentially challenge Hizbullah, and political newcomers and independents could try to break through the monopoly long enjoyed by the political dynasties.
It also promises to shake things up by reorganizing Lebanon's electoral map, consolidating 23 districts into 15, and awarding seats by share of the vote received, rather than winner-takes-all. The law also allows Lebanese expatriates to vote abroad for the first time, adding a new level of unpredictability to the mix.
The last time elections were held in Lebanon was in 2009. Since then, members of parliament have extended their terms twice, citing security threats linked to the war in neighboring Syria.
Lebanon is technically a parliamentary democracy but is shackled by a decades-old sectarian-based power-sharing system, and its politics are dominated by former warlords that have long exploited the system to perpetuate corruption and nepotism. All senior government positions are allocated according to sect, including the head of state, who should be a Christian, the prime minister, a Sunni Muslim, and the parliament speaker, a Shiite. Parliament is divided equally between Christians and Muslims, with seats allotted according to religious sect.
The formula, based on outdated demographic data that does not account for nearly 200,000 Palestinians who are denied citizenship and a vote, allows people to vote according to their religious affiliations, not a political program.
A record number of first-time hopefuls are campaigning for change, urging voters to shun politicians who have drowned the country in corruption and debt. Many rose to prominence as organizers of protests over a 2015 trash collection crisis that left garbage in the streets for months and laid bare the extent of the public sector mismanagement plaguing Lebanon.
"It reflects a new mindset emerging among significant sectors of the Lebanese electorate, pointing in the direction of making a small dent in the religious sect-based political system," said Randa Slim, an analyst with the Washington-based Middle East Institute.
Still, the biggest winner appears to be Hizbullah and its allies, who look set to scoop up at least some of the seats lost by Hariri's coalition, largely because of the expected fragmentation of the Sunni vote.
Hariri now has the largest block in parliament, but is likely to lose seats to rival politicians. Some of Hariri's supporters shifted their loyalty after the billionaire businessman, who also holds Saudi citizenship, laid off scores of employees in his development company, Saudi Oger, as well as in Hariri-owned charities and media outlets in Lebanon, largely because of Saudi spending cuts.
That loss of support has been compounded by what some see as a weak stance vis-a-vis Hizbullah, accusing him of catering to and giving political cover to the group, which a U.N.-backed tribunal has accused in the 2015 assassination of his father, Rafik Hariri.
Hizbullah offered its support to Hariri after he was detained in Saudi Arabia late last year during a visit to Riyadh in which he announced his resignation as prime minister, citing Iran and Hizbullah's meddling in the region. The move was widely seen as Saudi coercion, although Hariri denies stepping down against his will and has since reversed his resignation.
Hizbullah now seeks, along with its allies, to win at least 43 seats in the 128-member legislature, which would enable the group to veto any laws it opposes.
Hizbullah has sent thousands of fighters to Syria to shore up President Bashar Assad, and has cleared the vast region along the countries' shared border of Islamic militants, leaving hundreds of its fighters killed and wounded. It is now campaigning heavily on those achievements.
Its leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, called for heavy voter turnout, particularly in the Baalbek-Hermel region in eastern Lebanon, traditionally a Hizbullah stronghold which now faces a challenge from rivals.
"You should protect with your votes your victories and achievements, for which you've paid a very high price," Nasrallah said in an appeal to supporters at an election rally in the area on Monday.
Despite limited pushback from the Shiite community, Hizbullah has largely delivered on its promises in Syria as far as the Shiite community is concerned and will now be expected to deliver on the economic front, Slim said.
She expects a governing coalition between Hariri and Hizbullah to re-emerge from Sunday's vote and says if the elections produce a weaker Hariri, it will be all the more reason for Hizbullah to push for him to be the next prime minister.
"In light of the talk of a looming Iranian-Israeli confrontation in Syria, Hizbullah will be more incentivized in not rocking the boat in Lebanon," she said.

Lebanon since Independence
Naharnet/May 04/18/Following are key events in Lebanon's history since independence, leading up to Sunday's parliamentary elections:
On November 22, 1943 Lebanon becomes independent after 23 years under French mandate. A "national pact" is agreed under which Christians agree to abandon protection from the West and Muslims that of Arab nations.
It also lays out the sectarian power-sharing agreement that still rules the country today, with the post of president allocated to a Maronite Christian, prime minister to a Sunni Muslim and speaker of parliament to a Shiite Muslim.
The pact, however, sows the seeds of internal conflicts, fueled by interference by foreign powers.
Civil strife
In the 1950s, under the influence of Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser, Muslims again begin to dream of Arab unity.
A five-month civil war breaks out in 1958 when Lebanon's Muslims, backed by Nasser and Syria, take up arms against the pro-Western regime of president Camille Chamoun. Chamoun calls for U.S. help. American troops arrive in July, their first military intervention in the Middle East. With the rebellion quelled, they pull out three months later.
PLO to Lebanon
After the Arab defeat in the June 1967 Israeli-Arab war, the first Palestinian bases are established in south Lebanon the following year, on the border with Israel and Syria. In 1969, Lebanon legalizes the armed Palestinian presence on its soil under the Nasser-sponsored "Cairo accord". The Palestinians set up their own authority, including policing, in Palestinian camps. Following the bloody "Black September" clashes in Jordan, in 1970, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) retreats to Lebanon.
In 1973, military operations by the PLO and reprisal raids by the Israelis sour relations between Palestinians and the Lebanese state.
Civil war
On April 13, 1975 a 15-year-long civil war starts. Christian militias battle with Palestinians, who are quickly backed up by leftists and Muslim forces.
In 1976 the Syrian army intervenes, with U.S. approval, after an appeal by embattled Christian forces.
In 1982 Israel invades Lebanon and besieges Beirut. Arafat and 11,000 Palestinian fighters evacuate the capital.
In September at least 1,000 people in the Palestinian camps of Sabra and Shatila are massacred by Christian militia.
The Taef agreement officially ends the war in 1990, after more than 150,000 people were killed, 17,000 went missing and hundreds of thousands were exiled or displaced.
Syrian domination
Despite the war's end, Syria's military and political dominance over Lebanon is crystallized with a May 1991 treaty between Damascus and Beirut.
Israel also maintains its occupation of southern Lebanon, withdrawing only in 2000.
On February 14, 2005, former prime minister Rafik Hariri is killed in a massive Beirut bombing along with 22 others. Those opposed to Syria blame Damascus, which repeatedly denied any role.
The assassination sets off rival protests, with demonstrators gathering on March 8 in support of Syria but a bigger demonstration on March 14 attracting more than one million people in Beirut to denounce Damascus.
The rival protests become the namesake of Lebanon's opposing political camps.
On April 26, 2005 the last Syrian troops leave Lebanon under opposition and international pressure. Syrian forces had peaked at 40,000 during their 29-year deployment.
Israel-Hizbullah conflict
In July 2006, a conflict starts between Israeli forces and the powerful Shiite movement Hizbullah after the latter captures two Israeli soldiers from the southern Lebanon border area. The ensuing 34-day war costs Lebanon around 1,200 lives, mostly civilians. With the withdrawal of Israeli troops in October, the Lebanese Army -- aided by the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon -- deploys in the south after a 40-year absence.
Syria war
The Syrian conflict breaks out in March 2011 amid constant fears it would spill over into Lebanon. In April 2013 Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah says his fighters have intervened in Syria on the side of President Bashar al-Assad.
Several deadly attacks hit Hizbullah bastions in Lebanon, claimed by small extremist Sunni groups. The Syrian conflict further entrenches Lebanon's divided political blocs, one led by Iran-backed Hizbullah and the other by Saad Hariri, the son of the assassinated ex-PM, who is backed by the United States and Saudi Arabia.
Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on May 04-05/18
Trump says date, place set for North Korea meeting
Reuters, WashingtonFriday, 4 May 2018ظPresident Donald Trump on Friday told reporters that the date and location were set for a meeting with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un, and that the details would be announced soon. The White House has said the historic summit with the Asian leader could take place this month, as long as North Korea made certain concessions. On Friday, speaking to reporters from the White House South Lawn before departing for Dallas, Trump says “we now have a date and we have a location. We’ll be announcing it soon.”While answering reporters’ questions, he said “a lot of things have happened” with respect to Americans currently being held in North Korea. Trump suggested on Monday that he was looking for the meeting to be held at the demilitarized zone between the two Koreas. That’s where Kim met with South Korean President Moon Jae-in last Friday. On Thursday, Vice President Mike Pence postponed a planned trip to Brazil at the end of May to free up resources for Trump's meeting with Kim.
US troop presence
Meanwhile, the White House is denied a published report that President Trump is seeking options to reduce the US troop presence on the Korean peninsula. The New York Times reported on Friday that Trump ordered the Pentagon to prepare options for drawing down US troops in South Korea, just weeks before he meets with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un. Trump has expressed frustration that South Korea does not contribute enough to fund US forces that bolster its defenses. National security adviser John Bolton said Friday that Trump “has not asked the Pentagon to provide options for reducing American forces stationed in South Korea.”The White House hasn’t said whether Trump is willing to place US troop levels on the negotiating table when he meets with Kim.

Syria Rebels Hand over Arms in New Deal with Regime
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 04/18/Syrian rebels on Friday were surrendering their heavy weapons after reaching a new deal with the government for a central swathe of territory, a war monitor said. Opposition fighters agreed with regime forces and their allies to a ceasefire deal earlier this week for parts of Syria's central provinces of Hama and Homs, including the rebel towns of Talbisseh, Rastan, and Al-Houla. "The fighters are handing over their heavy and intermediate weapons to Russian and regime forces for the second consecutive day," said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said. It included artillery and machine guns, said Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the Britain-based Observatory. "Once the handovers are finished, the rebels who want to leave will be evacuated out with civilians," Abdel Rahman told AFP. Rebels and civilians will be granted safe passage to the rebel-held town of Jarabulus, in Aleppo province, and the neighbouring province of Idlib which largely escapes government control, according to state news agency SANA. It said the deal also provided for the return of government institutions to the three towns and the reopening of a key highway. That highway runs from the capital Damascus, through Homs, and onto second city Aleppo, in the north. Securing it has been a major target for the regime's military operations. The area in Homs was part of a "de-escalation zone" agreed one year ago by opposition supporter Turkey and regime allies Iran and Russia. The four zones initially saw a reduction in shelling but violence has since escalated. One of them, Eastern Ghouta, was recaptured last month by the Syrian government after a blistering two-month offensive that ended in forced evacuations of rebels and civilians there. Jaish al-Izza, one rebel faction present in the Homs zone, has said it rejects the agreement and pledged to remain deployed on its front lines. The agreement comes after several days of intermittent clashes and regime reinforcements to the area. It is the third such transfer deal for Homs province, after thousands were bussed out in a pair of agreements for the city itself. Such negotiated withdrawals have brought swathes of territory back under government control during the country's seven-year war, most recently near Damascus. Another evacuation deal was underway on Friday in rebel-held areas south of the capital. SANA reported buses were entering the towns of Yalda, Babila, and Beit Saham to take opposition fighters and civilians north to rebel territory. It was the second day of transfers for the towns. Around 1,650 people, including rebels and civilians, were bussed out on Thursday and reached northern Syria the following morning, according to the Observatory.

Morocco Makes Sovereign Decision on Severing Ties with Iran
Rabat - Latifa Al Aarsooni/Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 04 May/2018/"The decision to cut off diplomatic relations with Iran is a sovereign decision taken within a bilateral framework and based on concrete evidence," said Moroccan government spokesman Mustapha El Khalfi. Speaking at a press conference held after the government's weekly meeting in Rabat, Khalfi said that the boycott decision premeditated and was preceded by a visit by the Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita to Tehran. In his visit, Bourita met with Iranian counterpart Jawad Zarif. The Moroccan top diplomat discussed overwhelming evidence on Tehran-sponsored proxy, Hezbollah, being involved in supporting the Polisario Front, a Western Sahara independence movement. “Two years ago, a committee was established in the name of protecting the Sahrawi people, with defense from the Lebanese Hezbollah,” said Khalfi. “March 2017 witnessed unprecedented developments--which were the subject of dialogue and evidence revelations-- and we have taken the time to put it back under control,” he said, adding that these measures came after procuring three clear-cut pieces of evidence proving Hezbollah’s involvement in supporting the Polisario Front. Hezbollah explosives and military experts visited Polisario camps in Tindouf and trained combatants on guerrilla warfare. The piece of second evidence, according to Khalfi, is what he also labeled as “the most dangerous development,” which was the "delivery of arms shipments by Hezbollah leaders to armed Polisario militias.” Khalfi said the shipments consisted of surface to air missiles. Thirdly, a member of the Iranian Embassy in Algeria, who holds a diplomatic passport, is believed to be heavily involved in organizing operations. The Iranian embassy worker is said to have enabled the facilitation of contacts and meetings, and unlocking logistic facilities for Hezbollah military officials to head to Tindouf, and meet up with Polisario members. Khalfi added that Morocco, before taking the decision to cut ties with Iran, “confronted Tehran with this evidence-- but received no refutation.” “It cannot be said that Iran is not aware of all this,” Khalfi said. He also stressed that the decision is not against the Iranian or Lebanese people.

Israel Demands Security Council to Condemn Abbas’ Remarks
Tel Aviv – London – Ramallah – Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 04 May/2018/Amid an unprecedented campaign of incitement by the Hebrew media and the political community, Israel lodged a formal complaint to the UN Security Council over Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ remarks about the Holocaust, accusing him of anti-Semitism. Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon sent a letter to the Security Council calling for a condemnation of “anti-Semitic” remarks by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. “Such a hateful diatribe against a people who have undergone thousands of years of intolerable persecution, is completely unacceptable. I call on all leaders of good faith to condemn these repeated hateful remarks and demand a full and sincere apology from Mr. Abbas. The Security Council must not stand idly by in the face of this incitement and apparent denial of Israel’s right to exist,” Danon said. During a 90-minute speech before the Palestinian National Council in Ramallah on the Holocaust on Monday, Abbas said: "From the 11th century until the Holocaust that took place in Germany, those Jews -- who moved to Western and Eastern Europe -- were subjected to a massacre every 10 to 15 years. But why did this happen? They say 'it is because we are Jews'.”He then cited "three books" written by Jews as evidence that "hostility against Jews is not because of their religion, but rather their social function," adding he meant "their social function related to banks and interest". Danon said in his letter: “This claim was a dangerous attempt by the Chairman to rewrite history and claim that the Zionist movement was a result of a European conspiracy.”“For there to be true progress towards peace in our region, the Palestinians will need leaders who are committed to promoting hope and seeking a better future,” the Israeli ambassador stated. Saeb Erekat, the PLO executive committee secretary, said that Abbas’ recent statements about the Holocaust were “distorted” because he conveyed the views of some historians. “The president did not deny the massacres of Jews, including the Holocaust. He believes in peace and negotiations, and the establishment of two states living in peace, security and good neighborliness, in accordance with his vision of peace, which he presented to the Security Council in February,” Erekat said. He also noted that Abbas “has repeatedly stressed respect for the Jewish religion, and our problem is with the occupier of our land.”

Iraq Debates over Granting Amnesty for Saddam-era Defense Minister

Baghdad – Hamza Mustapha/ Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 04 May/2018/Iraqi parliament speaker Salim al-Jubouri called for “special amnesty” for Sultan Hashim, who served as defense minister under former President Saddam Hussein, saying he will soon be discussing the matter with Iraq’s president, prime minister and the Federal Supreme Court. He added that the Hashim family filed a petition for granting the former defense minister’s amnesty, “in view of his current situation and health conditions.” Hashim had served as defense minister when Hussein’s government was overthrown in 2003 on the back of the U.S-led invasion and occupation of Iraq. He turned himself in shortly afterward but was sentenced to death in 2007. Legal adviser Amir Kanani said that special amnesty needs certain conditions satisfied, most notably a recommendation by the Prime Minister on the matter. “In order to grant special amnesty, charges must not be pressed on international crimes, terrorism, or financial and administrative corruption. He also said that Hashim’s verdict was decisive,” Kannani told Ashsarq Al-Awsat. On the other hand, Special Criminal Court Judge Munir Haddad, who tried Saddam Hussein and senior officials in the Baathist regime, including Hashim, stressed the difficulty of issuing amnesty before upcoming elections. “The Supreme Criminal Court Law No. 10 of 2005 stipulates in article 27 that no sentence may be commuted, amended or repealed,” Haddad told Asharq Al-Awsat. “No one has the right to intervene,” he added. Jabouri’s rival Sunni leaders in Western provinces were surprised by his position. Mohammad al-Karbouli said that “Hashim was not imprisoned just yesterday for the parliament speaker to remember his situation now and file for amnesty...This is a kind of recklessness that cannot fool anyone.”Karbouli added that it is impossible to achieve special amnesty under current circumstances for objective reasons. Former Nineveh Governor Atheel al-Nujaifi labeled Jubouri’s plea an unfortunately cheap electoral propaganda play.

Riyadh Issues Prison Sentences against ISIS Supporters
Riyadh - Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 4 May, 2018/Saudi Arabia’s Specialized Criminal Court has issued prison sentences ranging from four to 14 years against 10 Saudis accused of backing ISIS and adopting takfiri thought. One of the suspects had traveled to conflict zones in Syria to fight there. According to a statement on Thursday, the court condemned the first for considering the kingdom’s leaders disbelievers, backing takfiri thought and having ties with ISIS backers, traveling to conflict zones in Syria and participating in the conflict in addition to several other charges. He was sentenced to 13 years in prison. The second suspect received an 11-year prison sentence on similar charges. He was accused of knowing that certain suspects had traveled to Syria to join ISIS but had failed to notify the relevant authorities. He had also followed on social media groups that back ISIS.
The third was sentenced to 13 years in prison, while the fourth and fifth suspects received a four-year sentence. The sixth suspect was sentenced to a six-year prison term, while the seventh and eight suspects received respectively 11 and seven-year sentences. The court sentenced the ninth suspect to 14 years in prison. They were all banned from travel.

No Nobel Literature Prize in 2018 after Sexual Assault Scandal
Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 04 May, 2018/No Nobel Prize for Literature will be awarded this year, because of sex-abuse allegations that have seen a string of members resign from the board of the Swedish Academy that makes the award. "The present decision was arrived at in view of the currently diminished Academy and the reduced public confidence in the Academy," it said in a statement. "Work on the selection of a laureate is at an advanced stage and will continue as usual in the months ahead but the Academy needs time to regain its full complement, engage a larger number of active members and regain confidence in its work, before the next Literature Prize winner is declared."The Academy, which made its decision at a weekly meeting in Stockholm on Thursday, said it aimed to award two prizes in 2019. The council of prestigious authors and linguists has been dealing with the fallout of allegations of sexual misconduct by the husband of one of its members and of the leaks of names of some prize-winners ahead of the formal announcements. Photographer Jean-Claude Arnault, a major cultural figure in Sweden who is married to Academy member and author Katarina Frostenson, denies all allegations, regarding both sexual misconduct and leaking the names of laureates, his lawyer told Reuters on Thursday. The turmoil began in November when a Swedish newspaper published the testimonies of 18 women claiming to have been raped, sexually assaulted or harassed by Arnault. A debate over how to face up to its flaws has also divided the academy’s 18 members — who are appointed for life — into hostile camps and prompted seven members of the prestigious institution to leave or disassociate themselves from the secretive group. A postponement or cancellation of the award is rare but not unprecedented.
There were no awards between 1940 and 1943, due to World War II, while the American novelist William Faulkner received his prize a year late in 1950 when two prizes were handed out. The rules of the foundation that administers the will of dynamite inventor Alfred Nobel mean prizes can be reserved until the following year.

Unprecedented Anger in Gaza Due to Reduced Salaries
Gaza - Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 4 May, 2018/The Palestinian Authority (PA) has reduced salaries for its staff in the besieged Gaza Strip by 20 percent, and didn’t compensate employees for not getting their salaries last month, leading to an unprecedented rage. This angered some 38,000 civil servants in Gaza as they were shocked when they learned of the fresh reduction upon arriving at their banks on payday. Most of the staff had hoped that they would receive paychecks for two months, but instead they just received a reduced monthly income for a single month, without any explanation. Hamas seized control of Gaza from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in 2007, prompting Israel and Egypt to clamp down on the territory, where 2 million people live under a de facto blockade with the world's highest unemployment rate. “If they’ve failed to resolve this issue through dialogue, it can’t be resolved by (using) the poor employee,” said Eyad Kalloub, a 40-year-old civil servant, as he queued at his bank. Back in April last year, Abbas cut his Gaza-based staff’s salaries by 30 percent. He also reduced the number of his staff in the blockaded enclave from 60,000 in 2017, by ordering early retirement for almost a third of the civil servants. Economists said the PA cuts would shrink the tax revenue collected in Gaza by Hamas - which it uses to pay 40,000 employees it has hired in the enclave since 2007. More than half of Gazans depend on international aid, and 43.6 percent of workers are unemployed, the highest rate in the world. Basic utilities such as water purification and power have deteriorated. Israel, which has fought three wars in Gaza in the decade since Hamas took over, bars a range of goods that it says could have military uses from entering the territory, making reconstruction difficult and costly. Jamal Abu Gholy, 38, a civil servant, came to his Gaza bank hoping to draw on his April salary, only to learn that it had not been deposited. Instead, he owed the bank for an overdraft. "What shall I do about Ramadan?" he asked, thinking of the festive meals which Muslims break their daily fasting over the course of the month. "I can't just put out cheese and jam. We tell President Abbas: please show mercy towards us."
Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on May 03-04/18
Final Days of a Crippled Agreement
الأيام الأخيرة من الاتفاق الأعرج
Salman Al-dossary//Asharq Al Awsat/May 04/18
Less than 24 hours after Israel's strike targeting Iranian forces in Syria, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said the nuclear deal was groundless and based on false Iran-provided evidence, stressing that his country was not seeking a war with Iran.
But three US officials told NBC that Israel and Iran are moving closer to open warfare. They added that Israel is actually preparing for an impending war with Iran and is in the process of seeking US support.
Israeli F-15s hit Hama after Iran delivered weapons to a base that houses Iran's 47th Brigade, including surface-to-air missiles. In addition to killing two dozen troops, including officers, the strike wounded three other dozen.
Away from the heated war of words and threats between Israel and Iran, nine days stand before a decisive point in history-- US President Donald Trump will be announcing his decision on the nuclear agreement on May 12.
Trump decision is expected to either be a complete withdrawal from the deal, insist on amendments and re-imposing of sanctions. A third scenario is possible, but highly unlikely, in which Trump chooses to go on without a conclusive decision.
For three years, European countries considered this agreement an untouchable ‘holy pact’, but that tone changed in an attempt to open the door for a compromise which would keep the US from pulling out, and the agreement from collapsing.
French President Emmanuel Macron is not pushing for renegotiating the deal signed in mid-2015, but rather for a compromise and opting to back the deal with three other agreements.
Ensuing agreements would include immediate negotiations on Syrian and Yemeni issues, negotiations on Iranian ballistic missiles and finally on the validity of the nuclear agreement itself, which spans for 10 years.
Under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the official name for the Iranian nuclear deal with world powers, the Iranian Natanz facility will be limited to installing centrifuges for 10 years only.
Of course, European concerns when it comes to Trump leaving the deal rise from a fear of losing the chance to realize economic interests that they have with Iran.
For European states defending the nuclear agreement, Iran exporting ballistic missiles to Yemeni coup militias with an agenda to strike Saudi Arabia does not concern them. Europeans do not care whether Iran has military bases in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen or not, what is relevant is that their investors do not withdraw from Tehran. They are trying hard to salvage economic interests at a time when both the White House and US intelligence are critically concerned with Iranian missiles developing rapidly.
If missiles reach a professional manufacture and engineering capacity, they will be soon able to carry nuclear warheads and inflict considerable harm not only to Saudi Arabia and its neighbors, but to US Middle East interests.
All that Iran has done to answer to these fears is claim that its ballistic missile program was not a part of the agreement, and that its missiles do not transport nuclear warheads—another spewed lie matching Iran’s known tendency to tell untruths. The world waited for a decade to sign a crippled deal.
Only a little over a week is left to light the red signal and fix the gaps and flaws infesting the agreement which helped malevolent forces arm 50,000 members of extremist militias in Syria.
Since day one, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia stood solid in its warning of the agreement making the Middle East “a more dangerous part of the world,” while the majority of the world thought it would foster peace in the region.
Days passed and proved the kingdom right, and that signatories had rushed into the deal without seeing the threat posed by Iran. Is there anyone left who doubts the validity of Saudi insight?!

الأيام الأخيرة من الاتفاق الأعرج
سلمان الدوسري/الشرق الأوسط/03 أيار/18
بعد أقل من 24 ساعة على الضربة المنسوبة لإسرائيل ضد القوات الإيرانية في سوريا، قال رئيس الوزراء الإسرائيلي نتنياهو إن الاتفاق النووي أساساته كاذبة، ويعتمد على أدلة مغلوطة قدمتها إيران، مؤكداً أن بلاده لا تسعى لحرب مع إيران، لكن ثلاثة مسؤولين أميركيين صرحوا لشبكة «إن بي سي» بأن إسرائيل تستعد فعلاً لحرب وشيكة مع إيران، كما تسعى للحصول على دعم من أميركا، مضيفين أن الغارة الأخيرة على حماة في سوريا نفذتها طائرات حربية إسرائيلية من طراز (F15) وأنها ضربت شحنات صواريخ أرض جو، وأدت إلى قتل عشرات الجنود الإيرانيين، وبعيداً عن ردة الفعل الإيراني لا تتوافق مع حجم الصراخ والعويل والتهديدات الكلامية لإسرائيل، فإن الأحداث تتوالى والسخونة تزداد مع اقتراب ساعة الصفر بعد 9 أيام، عندما يحل الثاني عشر من الشهر الحالي بإعلان الرئيس الأميركي دونالد ترمب قراره بشأن الاتفاق النووي؛ إما الانسحاب منه، أو الإصرار على تعديله وفرض عقوبات مهما كانت النتائج، أو الاحتمال الثالث وهو الأضعف بالاستمرار فيه دون اتخاذ قرار حاسم.
كانت العواصم الأوروبية وطوال ثلاث سنوات تعتبر هذا الاتفاق كتاباً مقدساً لا يحتمل التعديل، إلا أن اللهجة تغيرت وتغير معها المزاج الأوروبي في مسعى لفتح الباب أمام حل وسط يضمن عدم انسحاب الولايات المتحدة وبالتالي انهيار الاتفاق، وقد حمل لواء الحل الوسط الرئيس الفرنسي إيمانويل ماكرون، ففكرته لا تقوم على إعادة التفاوض على الاتفاق النووي الذي تم توقيعه منتصف 2015، وإنما تكمن في عدم المساس به على الإطلاق، وإكماله بثلاث اتفاقيات أخرى؛ مفاوضات فورية حول الملفات السورية واليمنية، وأيضاً مفاوضات حول الصواريخ الباليستية الإيرانية، وأخيراً حول مدى صلاحية الاتفاق النووي نفسه التي حددت على مدى عشر سنوات. بالطبع الحرص الأوروبي على عدم المساس بالاتفاق نظير المصالح الاقتصادية التي يعتقد الأوروبيون أنها ستطير مع الريح بمجرد اتخاذ ترمب قراراً بالانسحاب، فلا يهم الأوروبيين أن الدولة التي يدافعون عن اتفاقها النووي، تعطي صواريخ باليستية لميليشيا كالحوثيين ليضربوا بها السعودية، وهي المرة الأولى التي تسلح دولة ميليشيا بالصواريخ لكي تعتدي بها على دولة أخرى، كما أن الأوروبيين لا يهتمون أيضاً إن كانت إيران لديها قواعد عسكرية في سوريا والعراق ولبنان واليمن أو لا، ما يهمهم أن مستثمريهم لا ينسحبون من طهران، في الوقت الذي بدا فيه كل من البيت الأبيض والاستخبارات الأميركية قلقاً جداً، لأن الصواريخ الإيرانية تتطور بسرعة متنامية، وإذا تمت هندسة وصنع الصاروخ باحتراف، فهذا يمكنهم من وضع قنبلة نووية في رأس الصاروخ يوماً ما، وبطبيعة الحال هذا الأمر سيتسبب في ضرر كبير جداً، ليس للسعودية وجيرانها فحسب، بل لمصالح الولايات المتحدة في الشرق الأوسط عموماً. بالطبع كل ما فعلته إيران للرد على هذه الاتهامات الزعم بأن ملف الصواريخ الباليستية لم يكن في الاتفاق، بالإضافة إلى أن صواريخها لا تحمل رؤوساً نووية، أما الأكيد فهو أن الجميع يعلم أن هذه ليست سوى كذبة إيرانية جديدة تعودنا عليها.
انتظر العالم عقداً كاملاً من أجل التوقيع على اتفاق أعرج، ولم يبقَ إلا أكثر من أسبوع بقليل لأن ترفع الإشارة الحمراء، وسد ثغرات وعيوب تمتلئ بها اتفاقية ساعدت قوى شريرة بأن تسلح 50 ألفاً أعضاء في ميليشيات متطرفة في سوريا وحدها. من يصدق، السعودية وحدها حذرت من الاتفاق منذ يومه الأول باعتباره سيجعل الشرق الأوسط «جزءاً أكثر خطورة في العالم»، بينما غالبية دول العالم ظنت أنه سيحل السلام معه في المنطقة.. دارت الأيام وثبت مَن الدولة التي كانت محقة تماماً، ومَن الدول التي اندفعت دون أن ترى الخطر الإيراني. هل بقي من يشكك في صحة الرؤية السعودية؟!

Iran Must Prove Israel is Lying
المطلوب من إيران التي تتهم إسرائيل بالكذب أن تكشف وتؤكد ما تدعيه
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al Awsat/May 04/18
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu escalated the level of the crisis with Iran on the international level as he ruined the plans of EU leaders who are trying to convince the American administration to postpone withdrawal from the nuclear deal and to provide middle-ground solutions.
Netanyahu provided dangerous information that does not only state that Iran is misusing the nuclear deal but that it is also violating the entire agreement, which prohibits nuclear activity for military purposes.
If some of the accusations he made are true regarding Tehran and its failure to actually halt its nuclear activity, this will destroy the international agreement which is described as historical and which those who’ve signed it believe it’s very precious.
We cannot judge information provided by Israel considering it is a direct party in the conflict. We are waiting to hear the other parties’ opinions, including European ones, which said that they were surprised by the Israeli premier’s remarks and are studying Israeli intelligence information.
Although we do not know the truth of Iran’s commitment to the deal, we actually know the Iranian regime that’s based on deceit. We know that if it hadn’t been for the economic sanctions, it would not have agreed to sign the nuclear deal with the West. The question that remains is did the Iranian regime respect the deal? Its behavior shows that it cannot stop increasing its military competence and defensive capabilities which it claims are necessary for the regime’s survival.
It’s no surprise at all if it later turned out that it continued to work in secret to develop its nuclear structure. Western countries are expected not to hesitate into looking into this as this is one of the major rights of those who signed the deal.
The Europeans will probably find that the Iranian regime is guilty in terms of not halting the rehabilitation of its nuclear capabilities but they will claim there isn’t enough to convict it since it has not exceeded the prohibited enrichment rate.
Before signing the agreement, the Iranian regime was hinting that it will not stop rehabilitating its facilities as it believes it is within its right to do so. It wants to be ready with nuclear capabilities that enable it to quickly produce nuclear weapons once the 10-year period ends and it may have these capabilities ready even before they end. The idea of establishing the agreement on the basis that the Supreme Leader’s regime will respect the pledges it made is wrong and stupid to begin with. The dozens of cameras set by the international observers and the vows to carry out surprise inspections will not stop the regime from resorting to trickery.
The Tehran regime bowed to American sanctions and agreed to the conditions due to the blockade but it was not convinced of anything and it probably never intended to stop its nuclear program.
Therefore, if it had shut down laboratories, deactivated some equipment and opened its nuclear facilities to be inspected, it may have opened other facilities to resume its work in secret. The regime is mysterious and extremely ambiguous; therefore, we may not know the truth until after it’s too late!
During the phase after the nuclear agreement was signed, Iranian security forces became stricter, instead of being open and lenient, and arrested dozens of Iranians and visitors who are originally Iranian as well as others under different excuses.
This is a sign that it increased its secrecy level. It also prevented gathering information on its territories, which shows that the regime is afraid the truth will be discovered. Iran which denies the information that Israel announced must open the door to expose the Israelis’ lies, that is they really are liars; or else, the deal is not worth the papers it’s written on.

Trump's Three Conditions for Fixing the Iran Deal Are Now Imperative
شروط ترمب الثلاثة لتعديل الإتفاق النووي مع إيران أصبحت جداً ضرورية
What the Mossad's Amazing Coup Dictates
Malcolm Lowe/Gatestone Institute/May 04/18
What the assorted apologists for the Iran nuclear deal have failed to grasp is a simple distinction: the difference between suspicions and confirmation. The IAEA based its assessments on "over a thousand pages" of documents; now we have a hundred thousand.
Moreover, these are in effect a hundred thousand signed confessions of the Iranian regime that it intended to create nuclear weapons and load them on missiles manufactured by itself. The miniature minds of the apologists are simply incapable of grasping the historic magnitude of the Mossad's discovery.
The picture of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu standing before two displays, one of file folders and one of compact discs, symbolizes possibly the greatest coup in the history of espionage: the Mossad's acquisition of the archive of Iran's program to create nuclear weapons. A runner up for that title might be the advance information about Operation Overlord, the Allied landing in France at the end of World War II, supplied by Elyesa Bazna from Ankara and Paul Fidrmuc from Lisbon.
Nazi Germany failed to act on that information about the intended landing site on D-Day. Instead, it fell victim to false information provided by a supposed spy who was working for the Allies. The parallel to that failure is the present rush of politicians and so-called experts who pretend that the Mossad's coup tells us nothing new and merely proves that the deal is more justified than ever. They claim, in particular, that before the deal was agreed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) already knew the broad details of what the new information reveals.
What the assorted apologists for the Iran nuclear deal have failed to grasp is a simple distinction: the difference between suspicions and confirmation. The IAEA based its assessments on "over a thousand pages" of documents; now we have a hundred thousand.
Moreover, these are in effect a hundred thousand signed confessions of the Iranian regime that it intended to create nuclear weapons and load them on missiles manufactured by itself. The miniature minds of the apologists are simply incapable of grasping the historic magnitude of the Mossad's discovery.
Apart from Netanyahu himself, the most significant individual who understands that magnitude is President Trump. In February 2018, Trump informed the three European countries involved in the Iran deal about the defects that he wanted corrected in order to continue to certify the deal. As Reuters reported at the time: "Trump sees three defects in the deal: its failure to address Iran's ballistic missile program; the terms under which international inspectors can visit suspect Iranian nuclear sites; and 'sunset' clauses under which limits on the Iranian nuclear program start to expire after 10 years. He wants all three strengthened if the United States is to stay in the deal."
The Mossad's coup has turned Trump's three proposals into three imperatives, not just to the Europeans but also to the two other states involved in the deal: Russia and China. (Russia, in particular, must grasp that major Russian cites are within missile range from Iran.) That is, if the deal is to survive, the sunset clauses must be cancelled, the IAEA must have freedom to inspect whatever it demands, and Iran's long-range missile capacity must be curtailed. This is because the Mossad has also supplied us with a hundred thousand signed confessions that the Iranian regime will resume and complete its plans for nuclear-armed missiles as soon as the deal permits it -- indeed authorizes it -- to do so.
*Malcolm Lowe is a Welsh scholar specialized in Greek Philosophy, the New Testament and Christian-Jewish Relations. He has been familiar with Israeli reality since 1970.
© 2018 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Iran, Macromel and the Purloined Letter
Amir Teri/Asharq Al Awsat/May 04/18
Seeking to persuade the US President Donald Trump to drop his demand for improving the “nuke deal” with Iran, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have insisted on one shibboleth: No better deal is possible!
(In political circles of Paris and Berlin the Macron-Merkel tandem is now known as Macromel!)
However, the Franco-German claim, subtly backed by the British and echoed by President Hassan Rouhani in Tehran, suffers from at least one logical defect: We won’t know whether or not an improvement is possible unless we give it a try.
Tried for two years, the “deal”, concocted out by former President Barack Obama, has proven unworkable.
Iran has been unable, not to say unwilling, to fulfill its part of the bargain on key issues.
These include the shipping out of Iran’s stockpiles of enriched uranium; less than half has been sent to Russia for “safe-keeping”. As for disposing of stockpiles of plutonium, Iran has been unable to find a client, although intermittent negotiations to that effect are under way with China. Iran has also dragged its feet on inspections. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has been granted access to 22 of the 32 “sites of interest”. But the two sides have failed to reach an accord on the modalities of a long-term process of inspection. Iran has reduced the number of its centrifuges, needed to enrich uranium, but installed new machines with higher productivity which, according to Behruz Kamalvand, spokesman for Iran’s Atomic Energy Agency, maintains productive capacity “fully intact.”
It remains a mystery why Iran needs to enrich any uranium.
Iran has just one nuclear power station, built by Russians, who also provide the uranium needed as fuel for its life-span of 38 years. The uranium that Iran is enriching is of a different code, not suitable for use in the nation’s only nuclear power station. Iran also needs a small quantity of uranium for its sole reactor, at Amirabad, which is used for medical and scientific purposes. But Amirabad uses higher grade uranium enriched to 20 per cent which Iran has imported without any trouble since the late 1950s. The uranium that Iran is enriching at just over 5 per cent is of no use in Amirabad.
In other words, Iran’s nuclear project, hugely costly in both economic and political terms, makes no sense unless it is aimed at creating a threshold capacity to produce nuclear weapons at some as yet unspecified date.
The beauty of all this, if one might use such a term for an ugly deception, is that the Islamic Republic has been pursuing that goal since 1989 after a three-year interruption of the project launched under the Shah in the late 1950s.
There is of course nothing illegal about enriching uranium or producing nuclear weapons or even using them. The only thing is that you cannot be a signatory of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), as Iran has been from the start, and violate it at the same time.
Regardless of Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu’s latest live-on-TV “revelations”, Iran’s overall nuclear project has never been really secret.
Iran - both under the Shah and under the mullahs - has used what one might call “the purloined letter” method spelled out in Edgar Allan Poe’s short story of that name. In that story, a letter has been stolen from the salon of a high class lady by a devious politician who intends to use it for blackmail. Extensive searches fail to locate the letter because it has been on a desk in plain public view. Only detective Auguste Dupin knows that the best way to hide something is to put it on public display.
In the case of Iran it must be clear that no sane leader would spend so much money and effort, not to mention suffering huge economic and diplomatic damage, to enrich uranium and stockpile plutonium just for the fun of it. Thus, if the project has absolutely no obvious civilian use, it must be intended for something else. This, of course, does not mean that Iran is making the bomb; the mullahs may well be engaged in all their shenanigans just for fun.
The Europeans are certainly informed enough to know all that. However, it is in their short-term interest to pretend that they don’t see the purloined letter.
Since the Obama deal was unveiled, British exports to Iran have risen to $1.1 billion a year, an increase of 168 percent. French exports have topped $1.8 billion, a rise of 85 percent while Germany has done even better with exports of $2.6 billon, a 77 percent rise.
And that is all for starters. Currently Iran is the largest market still kept outside the global system. If re-admitted, it would be worth $300 billion a year for key exporting nations, among them the European trio.
Just as Iran has been cheating in plain sight, the European trio has also reneged on promises in the “deal.” They still refuse to give Iran access to banking and capital market services, and have suspended export-guarantees for trade with the Islamic Republic.
In other words the “deal” is propped up as a great diplomatic achievement by those, on Iranian as well as the European side, that have no intention of implementing it.
That the Europeans don’t care much about the substance of the issue is indicated by Macron and Merkel insisting that “signatures” be honoured. The fact, however, is that no one signed the “deal” which lacks a legal status.
The Obama “deal” is bad for Iran, bad for Europe and bad for the Middle East. It keeps Iran under never-ending sanctions with just enough relief to keep its dying economy half-alive in the short-term interest of European and Chinese exporters. At the same time it keeps the clock ticking towards the “threshold” moment when the mullahs, if their regime survives, decide to go full shebang for “the ultimate weapon.”
Trump has two options: The first is to let the charade continue by “suspending” the implementation of the “deal” without formally denouncing it; in other words by adding a new layer of fudge to the thick layer inherited from Obama. The other option is to seek an improved deal, improved both for Iran and for the rest of the world, through a clear legal framework. To be sure, that kind of serious diplomacy won’t get Trump a Nobel Peace Prize. But it might, just might, remove the spectre of war from a region that has had its full share of wars.

Iran will reluctantly accept Trump’s conditions
Mohammed Al Shaikh/Al Arabiya/May 04/18
The mullahs’ regime in Tehran is anxiously waiting until May 12, the date when the US will declare its official position regarding renewing the nuclear agreement with Iran.
The Europeans, as well as Russia and China, know that if the US withdraws from the nuclear agreement, the Iranian people and the clerical regime will suffer from lean economic years which will immerse their burdened economy with problems that cannot be solved unless via the US commitment to the agreement.
Suffocating economic crisis
The French people represented by their president Emmanuel Macron tried to convince the US president to remain committed to the deal but when he could not, he tried to find a compromise that keeps the agreement in place but adds some supplements that take the White House’s notes into consideration. This is what triggered Iran to say that it rejects any new supplements.
However, those observing Iran’s situation, whether its domestic situation or its expansive commitments on the foreign level, can see that it is going through a suffocating economic crisis that’s similar to its crisis during the Iraqi-Iranian war.
Uranium enrichment will not provide livelihood for the starving Iranian people and will in fact further deteriorate the economy
At the beginning of this war, which lasted for eight years, the Iranians bid on steadfastness, resistance and defiance but in the end they had to submit to peace with Saddam Hussein and Khomeini unwillingly complied with stopping the war.
Khamenei’s situation today is similar to Khomeini’s situation earlier as Iran’s economic deterioration and decreased capability to meet its financial commitments will only be resolved by forcibly, and not willingly, submitting to Trump’s conditions. Iran’s only bargaining chip to pressure the Western and Eastern world is that of uranium enrichment, which is entirely rejected by the western world, Israel and neighboring Arab countries.
Moreover, uranium enrichment will not provide livelihood for the starving Iranian people and will in fact further deteriorate the economy and its currency – a deterioration which I do not think that the Revolutionary Guards’ oppression can contain.
Yielding to new conditions
That’s why I am certain that the mullahs will acquiesce to the new American conditions against their will, and accept the supplements proposed by the French president and which are related to halting the development of ballistic missiles and to limiting expansion in the region and not supporting terrorism.
However, what we should be well-aware of is that Iran is a religious clerical state that is strange to the orientations and moods of the modern communities. Therefore, it will not abandon its dream to establish the Safavid Republic of Persia– it may temporarily give it up for tactical reasons but once it finds an opportunity, or when there is a democratic president, like the poltroon president Obama, in the White House, it will revive its old agenda.
The Europeans consider Iran as a land of virgin opportunities in terms of investment. This investment attractiveness is what lured European leaders. They are mainly concerned that Iran, due to its current economic situation, will witness wars and conflicts among its components which are made up of different ethnicities, sects and doctrines; thus not giving their companies a chance to invest there.
Whether Iran accepts the new conditions of the amended agreement or not, we must work hard to stir up everything that would domestically distract it from us in a way that keeps this lurking savage monster from harming our security and stability.

The impossibility of changing Iran’s policy in the region
Randa Takieddine/Al Arabiya/May 04/18
After concluding his visit to Washington and before heading to Australia, French President Emmanuel Macron kept calling Iranian and Russian presidents as well as the Israeli prime minister regarding possible modifications to the Iranian nuclear deal. Although he thoroughly discussed this matter during his meeting with Donald Trump in the White House to convince him to stick to the agreement, he added four elements to it to reassure Trump on contentious matters related to Iran’s policy in the region.
Behind the scene parleys
The international community is bizarre in its ways. When the seven countries started negotiating with Iran on the nuclear issue, they repeatedly maintained that the deal had nothing to do with Iran’s policy in the region. Today, they want to include this element in the nuclear deal. Iranian president has publicly announced that his disapproval of accepting any amendments to the deal.
Nevertheless, the phone call between him and French president was long and inclusive which means that the rejection might be in public, but in reality the two presidents were discussing and pitching ideas over what can be changed.
However, Rouhani is not the Revolutionary Guard and has no power regarding Iran’s policy in the region, neither in Yemen nor in Syria, Iraq, or in Lebanon. Convincing Iran to cease meddling in all these countries is an unattainable task because until today it has been interveningwithout anyone confronting it.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is demanding high price from Europe to convince Iran against meddling in Syria and Yemen
It is public knowledge that Iran has infiltrated Syrian territory not only through the channels of the Hezbollah forces, but also through Iranian citizens who have been sent to become new residents in the cities that now lie deserted thanks to the Syrian regime. When countries started negotiating with Iran over the nuclear issue in 2013, Russia was not present in Syria, but Iran was still expanding there thanks to Hezbollah.
It was also powerful in Iraq as a result of Obama’s policy that hastened the evacuation of US troops from Iraq and handed the situation over to Nuri al-Maliki who allowed the expansion of Iranian influence in the country. Today, Trump wants to withdraw from Syria just as Obama did in Iraq, but Macron asked him to put it off until later for fear of Iran’s expansion in Syria.
Sooner or later Trump will withdraw his troops from Syria and Iran may replace it thanks to the Syrian regime, which cannot bring back the cities it lost without the trusteeship of the Iranian and Russian forces that will not withdraw from the country.
Scrapping deal will not cause more instability
Modifying the Iranian nuclear deal, with Macron wishing to include Iran’s policy in the region, cannot be implemented because the Iranian military faction will not cede this card to Rouhani. The Revolutionary Guard has its grip in the region, where they multiply the crises and interventions that irritate Iranian citizens who react to the situation of their country’s economy being at the bottom while Iran is handing over money to Hezbollah and to a Syrian war that doesn’t interest the citizens.
Macron and the European efforts to change the nuclear deal cannot bear fruit on the level of changing Iran’s interventionist attitude in Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Lebanon. As long as Iran keeps providing the Houthis, Hezbollah and the Syrian regime forces with ballistic missiles and advanced weapons more wars and disasters will enflame in the region. The Iranian nuclear deal has not solved this issue. If the deal is withdrawn or if it is to be kept the same way, it will not affect instability in the region. Israel is increasing its assaults into Syria, targeting the location of Iranian weapons. It has also worsened the situation in Lebanonbecause the peril of facing the Jewish state and Hezbollah isvery much present.
European countries along with some Arab countries are relying on Russia’s leverage on Iran to convince it to stop meddling in Syria and Yemen, but Russian President Vladimir Putin is demanding a high price for doing this. The Islamic Republic of Iran has the same aspiration of dominance that competes with those of Russia’s in the region. The next few weeks will be conclusive for the US position regarding the nuclear issue. Trump is saying that he would rip the deal apart but after Macron and Merkel’s visit, secretary of state Mike Pompeo has started talking about changing it.Certainly, the pressure on Iran will escalate.

Analysis Israel Hopes Trump Scrapping Nuclear Deal Could Ultimately Lead to Iran Regime Change
هآرتس: إسرائيل تتمنى أن إلغاء ترامب للإتفاق النووي مع طهران قد يؤدي في النهاية إلى تغيير النظام الإيراني

Amos Harel/Haaretz/May 04/18
Israel is being cautious, enabling operations to remain below the threshold of war even though it knows it might be subjected to retaliation at some point
Israel’s struggle against Iran has been taking place for many years on two parallel tracks, with complex connections between the two. Israel strived to block Iran’s nuclear program along with taking action to halt the supply of Iranian weapons to pro-Iranian groups in Lebanon, in Gaza and as of late in Syria.
The campaign against nuclear armaments was led by the political echelon. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu formulated policies and security agencies carried them out. At a critical juncture – the dispute, lasting from 2009 to 2012, over whether to bomb nuclear facilities – defense establishment leaders dug in and resisted the implementation of the offensive designs of Netanyahu and his defense minister at the time, Ehud Barak.
In the campaign being waged closer to our borders, the military brass are espousing an aggressive stance, adopted almost unhesitatingly by the prime minister and the cabinet. In recent weeks, these two campaigns are merging, and are expected to combine even more closely in the weeks ahead, as can be seen in the Mossad’s operation to steal the Iranian nuclear archive; Netanyahu’s pressure on the U.S. to abandon the nuclear accord; the series of air strikes attributed to Israel against Iranian targets in Syria; and concerns that an Iranian retaliation would ensure another round of fighting that will bring the two sides closer to war.
Netanyahu’s prop-laden news conference this week apparently had several aims. On a strategic level, the prime minister obviously wants to provide President Donald Trump with more ammunition ahead of his anticipated May 12 withdrawal from the Iran nuclear accord; it seems the steps taken by the two leaders are well coordinated.
Netanyahu has no illusions about the position of the other five signatory powers. Nevertheless, presenting authorized intelligence material attesting to a pattern of deception exercised by Iran in concealing its military nuclear program in the past could assist in undermining future Iranian declarations.
One cannot ignore the political dimension of these considerations. Netanyahu approved a risky operation that ended well; it’s reasonable that he reap the obvious rewards. But his declaration, like always with Netanyahu on the Iranian issue, was also addressed to history. He has been warning about Iran and its nuclear program for more than two decades.
It’s not hard to see that for him, the uncovering of this archive is definitive proof that he was right all along and that he did the right thing when addressing the U.S. Congress in 2015, speaking out against signing the accord, a futile move that garnered much criticism in Israel and the international community.
Political circles in Israel pin great hopes on the ability of American secession from the accord to rattle the Iranian economy, which is already in crisis. The plummeting of the Iranian rial (to the extent that trade in foreign currency was halted for a few days), a few protest rallies in Iranian cities and the deepening rift between the conservative camp and the relatively moderate one, the symbolic video clip showing soccer fans shouting the Shah’s name – all of these encourage those who believe that new sanctions will lead to a widespread wave of protests, like the one the authorities ultimately quelled at the end of the “Green Revolution” in 2009.
In this context, a brief comment in an article published by the outgoing head of Military Intelligence, Maj. Gen. Herzl Halevi, in the military magazine Maarachot is of interest. He wrote that “in an era in which most people get their news from the internet, cyber operations directed at people’s minds can overthrow states or prevent wars. Despite futuristic analysis relating to toppling regimes through the internet, this situation already exists.”
The IDF viewed the nuclear accord positively. To the prime minister’s chagrin, it refuses to completely dismiss the accord even now, finding itself busier with events close to the border. In a document he wrote in 2009 while serving as the head of Northern Command, current Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot put an emphasis on preparing the army for confrontation with enemies along Israel’s borders.
The multi-year Gideon plan, launched right after the nuclear accord was signed, was based on the idea that this agreement afforded the IDF a window of opportunity to close some gaps in contending with threats closer to home. At the same time, recent years have been characterized by the “war between wars,” aimed mainly at preventing organizations like Hezbollah from acquiring sophisticated, precision weapons
The nature of this campaign has changed in recent months. It seems Hezbollah and Iran have reduced the extent of arms smuggling from Syria to Lebanon, possibly due to damage inflicted by air strikes against arms convoys. Israeli efforts in the north, according to Syrian media reports, have changed to focusing on striking Iranian military targets.
Israel is cautious, enabling operations to remain below the threshold of war even though it knows it might be subjected to retaliation at some point. The IDF’s greatest achievement, said former air force commander Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel in an interview with Haaretz last August, is that it managed these operations without dragging Israel into a war.
So far five strikes against Syrian sites associated with Iran have been attributed to Israel: a large facility for producing weapons was bombed last September, a Shi’ite militia base was hit in December, two strikes were directed against Iranians at the Syrian T4 airbase near Homs, and this week a large shipment of missiles was hit south of Aleppo.
The February strike was in retaliation for the Iranian drone that was intercepted near Beit She’an. That operation may have embarrassed Iranian leaders, not all of whom may have known in advance about the drone operation. In April, the target was different. According to some media reports, Israel foiled the construction of an Iranian compound, an air base within the Syrian one, that was supposed to have been protected by anti-aircraft missiles.
In the mental battle waged between Eisenkot and his officers against General Qasem Soleimani, commander of the Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force responsible for overseas operations, it seems Israel has upped the ante significantly.
One opinion at the highest level of the defense establishment is that retreating from confrontation at this point would be a repeat of what the source called Israel’s mistakes in Lebanon over recent decades. In 1996, after Operation Grapes of Wrath, Israel restricted its operations somewhat to ensure quiet along the border. This allowed Hezbollah to develop into a more serious military challenge, sniping at the army’s heels until it left Lebanon four years later.
In 2006, after the Second Lebanon War, the organization advanced even more in its capabilities, partly because Israel never insisted on abiding by the clause in Security Council Resolution 1701 that forbade smuggling weapons to Hezbollah. The result is that Hezbollah’s rocket and missile arsenal grew tenfold, now numbering around 100,000. It can now reach any target in Israel.
“We can’t allow such a monster to rise up again in Syria, under an Iranian umbrella,” says a defense establishment source. Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Israel will prevent this “at any cost.” Does this cost include a war with Iran in Syria? Despite the forceful winds blowing from Jerusalem, the army believes there is still wide scope for maneuvering, with determined action possible without sliding into a war.
Developments also depend on changes on the nuclear weapons track. Israel’s aggressive stance is explained partly by a claim that Iran is waiting for Trump’s decision about the accord, making it think twice for now before responding to strikes in Syria. If the U.S. does abandon the agreement by the May 12 deadline, circumstances will change, obviously requiring a reevaluation by Tehran of its policies in Syria.
Surprisingly, there is currently no political debate concerning the possible implications of Israel’s moves in Syria. Israel has set a very high bar – the prevention of any Iranian presence in Syria, even very far from Israel’s border. The way things look now, Israel’s actions have led Iran to increase its efforts by sending more men and weapons to Syria.
If the goal was to drive a wedge between moderates and conservatives in Tehran, based on Soleimani’s ambitions and the dispute over the vast sums of money spent by the regime on its proxies abroad, there is no evidence so far that this has worked. In contrast to earlier rounds, Israel is now facing Iran directly. Iran is at a disadvantage in Syria, but at a later stage and in case of escalation it can always employ Hezbollah.
In a new and fascinating biography of David Ben Gurion by Tom Segev, “A State at all Costs”, Segev describes an exchange between Ben Gurion and chief of staff Moshe Dayan ahead of the 1956 Sinai campaign. “Dayan asked what state of alertness the army should be placed on. Ben Gurion replied that this was a tough question, but said that plans should take into account a sudden war and the ability to mobilize at the shortest notice all the forces required. The army should be trained.
“Dayan wasn’t convinced, but concluded from his conversation with Ben Gurion that there was no reason not to embark on a pattern of escalation. There is no need for Israeli provocations, he explained to his people. It would be enough to respond harshly to any aggression by Egypt. ‘This policy could bring tensions to a boil.’ However, he didn’t rule out the option of initiating a war.”

Analysis Israel Hopes Trump Scrapping Nuclear Deal Could Ultimately Lead to Iran Regime Change
هآرتس: إسرائيل تتمنى أن إلغاء ترامب للإتفاق النووي مع طهران قد يؤدي في النهاية إلى تغيير النظام الإيراني
Amos Harel/Haaretz/May 04/18

Iran Must Prove Israel is Lying
المطلوب من إيران التي تتهم إسرائيل بالكذب أن تكشف وتؤكد ما تدعيه
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al Awsat/May 04/18

Trump’s Three Conditions for Fixing the Iran Deal Are Now Imperative
شروط ترمب الثلاثة لتعديل الإتفاق النووي مع إيران أصبحت جداً ضرورية
Malcolm Lowe/Gatestone Institute/May 04/18

Final Days of a Crippled Agreement
سلمان الدوسري/الأيام الأخيرة من الاتفاق الأعرج
Salman Al-dossary/Asharq Al Awsat/May 04/18